Use China as buffer, says Marshall
Political scientist Dr Don Marshall has repeated his call for Government to seek Chinese or Asia Investment Infrastructure Bank funding to augment its arrangement with the International Monetary Fund (IMF).
He was speaking as a panellist in a discussion on The IMF And Barbados Agreement And Its Implications For Our Social And Political Lives, organised by the UWI Cave Hill Campus’ Political Science Students’ Association and held on Wednesday night at UWI’S Law Lecture Theatre.
Marshall said that “regardless of the type of programme that we are in with the Fund, Barbados needs a buffer to augment what we already have with the IMF in relation to its US$290 million and possible access to other loans from other partners”.
He acknowledged the Barbados Economic Recovery and Transformation Plan (BERT) approved by the IMF was geared towards transforming the economy through promotion of cultural industries, renewable energy and new sectors, but maintained that financing from other sources was needed to cover those areas.
“We need a buffer and right now, it has to come from an intelligent plan put before either the Asia Investment Infrastructure Bank . . ., the Chinese Import/export Agency and other state-owned enterprises coming out of China.”
Marshall said: “This Government must find a buffer for the IMF regardless of who brought us here or what got us here. We are here and we cannot succeed following the dictates of an IMF programme over the next four years, waiting and twiddling our thumbs for finance to come from capital markets or from some benefactors, to transform our economy.”
He contended that notwithstanding recent “western propaganda” about the danger of re-colonisation, Barbados did not have to surrender its sovereignty in any deal entered into with China.
“I think Barbados can blaze a trail in how you handle the relations with the IMF recognising opportunities to deal with China, without defaulting on its sovereignty.
“We must act intelligently if we are going to engage the Chinese. If we are going to engage them in a Belt and Road Initiative, it has to principally drive the transformation of our economy that BERT speaks to.”
The UWI academic added that “we cannot be limited to a conversation about what the IMF will do on the fiscal side of things and bringing about greater market reforms, because financial sector enhancement is not the recovery Barbados exactly needs. It needs to find a new fillip to replace losses in the international business sector”.
He conceded that Barbadians did not “elect” the IMF, but said “they are here and we have to find a way to navigate against the rapids of what will be an increasing social reaction to the stringencies and conditionalities of the fund”.
Political scientist Dr Don Marshall (right) in discussion with Minister in the Ministry of Finance Ryan Straughn after Wednesday night’s panel discussion.